These children may be institutionalized because of neglect or disability. The relationship between child care workers and their charges is important and often focuses on providing guidance and encouraging suitable life skills so that the children may lead active and productive lives on their own. The position of a child care worker offers one the challenges of working with groups of children who have different backgrounds and needs, and maintaining the role of group supervisor while being able to establish one-on-one relationships with each child in the work environment.
The responsibilities of a child care worker in volunteer jobs cover many of the tasks found in a traditional home environment. Child care workers have such duties as waking the children up in the morning and making sure they have a nutritious breakfast. It is also necessary for the child care worker to see that the children are properly dressed and ready for their daily activities, which may include school or other types of instruction, therapy, or planned daily tasks. Furthermore, a child care worker may be counted on to assist children with homework and studies and develop daily living abilities such as hygiene or manners. A child care worker may also be responsible for formal instruction, whether it be a class or part of a child’s therapy program. Household tasks - cooking, laundry, or other chores may be delegated to some of the older, more capable children to encourage participation and independence. Such direction can benefit the group and establish a healthy sense of cooperation and community.
A child care worker’s accountability to the children does not end with the roles of teacher and disciplinarian, however. In the evenings or on weekends the child care worker may be expected to engage in recreational activities with the children. Planning outings, holiday activities, such as baking and making crafts, and participating in sports and games allows both the children and child care worker to develop a more open and friendly relationship. Continual quality interaction with all the children is a significant part of the day-to-day routine. It is the amount of time for a volunteer job that a child care worker invests in the children that suggests that this job is most closely related to parenthood. In addition, it is in the diversity of these duties that child care workers find their greatest challenges and most positive rewards.
With a volunteer opportunity, the child care worker may find a significant number of children in these institutions that have been abused, mentally or emotionally disturbed, delinquent, or handicapped. The child care worker must be resourceful and patient, quick-thinking to handle small crises and disagreements, and firm to reinforce house rules and impart discipline. It is also important for the child care worker to be strong-willed and adaptable to a variety of needs, whether physical or emotional, and understand the inherent challenges that certain limitations and diverse backgrounds provide. An advantage in the field of child care workers is that there is no special training or education required for entry level positions. Because personal maturity and reliability are vital qualities though, the majority of institutions list only a high-school degree as essential. Child care workers often receive training on the job to become familiar with the rules and regulations specific to that institution.
Despite the basic requirement of a high school diploma, there are many possibilities for education and development and even for volunteer employment. Most two-year college programs offer courses that a child care worker would find beneficial, such as classes in child or behavioral psychology as well as sociology studies. In additions, arts and crafts, cooking, sewing, and metal and woodcraft, and other skill-oriented courses can be considered as children in these institutions can learn form any number of activities and projects. Those interested in pursuing a four-year college degree may want to consider fields of study in psychology, early childhood or special education, and course work in physical or occupational therapy. Earning a degree in areas such as these may direct the type of institution in which you will pursue employment.
In addition to any formal education however, the child care worker must have certain personal qualifications for this particular line of volunteer careers. Patience, compassion, a sense of fairness, and resourcefulness are characteristics that the child care worker will find necessary in handling small groups of children. As this is an area where service to others and attention to their needs create the base of the child care workers’ activities, an even temper and personal strength are imperative.
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